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Hundreds of Web sites offering free shipping today

With many online retailers having declared Friday as the last day that shoppers can order gifts online and have them delivered by Christmas with standard shipping, about 700 sites had plans to offer some form of free shipping today.

Many of the sites required a minimum purchase amount.

FreeShipping.info, a Web site that tracks free-shipping offers from what it says are the top 500 online retailers, say the average order size to qualify for free shipping is $52.

FreeShipping founder Kinga Malinowska says she has seen a surge in free shipping promotions and later deadlines for Christmas Eve delivery, compared to last year; the latest date is Tuesday, Dec. 22.

With less than two weeks until Christmas,  the clock is ticking on shipping gifts. As the holiday bustle picks up the major delivery companies -- FedEx, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service -- have indicated the busiest part of their season has started.

A number of Web sites have popped up with lists of retailers who will ship for free, including:

Freeshippingday.com. (Click here to connect.)

FreeShipping.info (Click here to connect.)

Luke Knowles, who runs freeshippingday.com, a coupon site, noticed last year that online traffic typically tapers off after the Monday following Thanksgiving, which is now being styled “Cyber Monday.”

So he decided to create Free Shipping Day to help extend the season for online retailers. “The main problem is that shoppers just think their orders won’t arrive on time,” Knowles said.
The idea took off. Traffic to some sites surged during the event
last year.

Mail carriers are bracing themselves for the surge of traffic, with the country’s two biggest shipping companies expecting a busier holiday season overall.

FedEx estimated it processed 13 million shipments on
Monday, its busiest day of the year, up from 12 million last year.
United Parcel Service said its volume is also slightly up, and its
busiest day is expected to be Dec. 21.

To help those sending and ordering by phone or online, each delivery company has posted online schedules for those getting into the spirit of Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanza.

The Postal Service (Click here to connect.) has a calendar online (Click here to find it.) for shoppers who are shipping in the United States and overseas.

FedEx (Click here to connect.) and UPS (Click here to connect.) also have advice and schedules.

It all still comes with a big if.  "If you're a die-hard last minute shopper," Malinowska advises, use the buy-online and pickup in the store feature that some of the larger retailers offer. "This saves time and disappointment in case the item is out of stock."

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